Even though the four of us have had several days to mull over all the evidence we found, we failed to think of any new leads that could aid us in our investigation. Then again, we did not have much to begin with but a hole in the mast, a dagger and a rotting corpse.
Secretly I have been eyeing all the human and sylvari crew members, but the only one that did seem a little off was the first mate. Although I would love to pin the murder on him and personally throw him overboard, I knew he only seemed off because he hated me as much as I had come to hate him.
As I was once again swabbing the deck, a sylvari passed me by, excitement all over his grainy face. We were approaching port now, which got the majority of the crew all excited. Sure, most of them loved being out at sea, but the shore does offer some services hard found on a ship.
Casting a glance to my left I saw rocks and dirt glide by in the distance. The coast. I still loathed the very idea of entering a—mostly—human port, but there was a job I had to do; an investigation. Sure, I could send the other three ahead without going myself, but I doubt that they would accept that. And besides, there was also Thornfang. The poor hound obviously longed to be able to run around again, not to be confided in a wooden box floating on the water, and I for one knew exactly how he felt. Still, it did little to ease my unrest.
“Charr,” a voice spoke up close to me.
Looking up, I saw captain Tot looking at me.
“Will ya be stayin’ aboard during this time in port as well?”
Mulling over the tone in his voice, I could only find sincere curiosity.
“Captain, I would prefer to go to shore with the rest of the team to continue the investigation.”
The little captain raised an eyebrow.
“Why would that be? Ya think some bloke threw the blade across the seas from that port?”
I could not help but snicker at that.
“No, sir, no. However, we want to get the dagger examined so we can get more information about it.”
The captain slowly nodded his head, eyes squinted.
“Very well. I’ll order the first mate an’ a couple o’ deckhands to stay behind then. Carry on.”
With that, he waddled away, back to the aft of the ship.
Sweat clung to my fur like an unwanted blanket. We arrived in port early in the morning and started unloading straight away. Now, the sun had well passed its zenith, but all the while I had been labouring in its warmth, hauling crates off of the ship.
Garron sauntered towards me, and he did not look much better than me. He had been in the cargo hold, passing the heavy items upwards together with Amethyst. I did not envy him at all; even though he did get to stay out of the sun he had to cope with her all day.
“You survived, I see,” I said to him with a grin and a nod.
“Yes, yes, so it would seem.”
He slumped down on the deck next to me, sighing deeply.
“Let me catch my breath for a bit,” he panted.
Slowly, the deck filled with the rest of the crew, all eager to leave for shore. All, but the unlucky sods the captain chose to stay on board. It seemed to me that he had chosen quite a few more then when I had volunteered to stay behind. Did the captain think that charr were more valuable when defending, or did he just trust us more? I knew, however, that was a question I would never get an answer to.
I gave a succession of three, short whistles and waited for a while. It only took a few seconds for Thornfang to find his way up to the deck and bound towards me. I lowered myself on one knee and let my claws slide gently over his leafy fur. He was nuzzling me ferociously, as if he sensed that we would be going ashore soon. When I looked up, I saw both Kaya and Amethyst staring at me with an odd grin. I decided not to ask.
“Have you got the dagger, little one?” Garron asked after he too saw Kaya.
“Naturally!” she said, sticking her nose in the air and patting a protrusion around her belt, beneath her clothes.
“So, apart from finding a blacksmith, does anytail need to do some shopping?” Amethyst asked.
“Well, I could use a fletcher set,” I said.
“I advise that all of us who own a weapon, take at least some of those with them,” Garron said in a serious tone. When he noticed that the three of us were staring at him, he gave a shrug and said, “You know, just a feeling.”
The four of us and Thornfang were walking down the street, attracting many dark glares from the local residence. Yes, they have been trading with charr for a while, but seeing three of them in a group walking through their main streets—I doubted they even saw Kaya—still seemed to unnerve them.
And rightfully so.
Although I did not doubt that the three of us could rip these mice apart, we were not aiming to do so this time.
“Uuugh, I cannot see a thing!” Kaya exclaimed.
“Poor thing,” Amethyst immediately retorted in an indifferent tone, earning her a dark glare from the asura.
“Well, you see, that can easily be solved.”
“Can it?” Kaya said frowning.
Before she even had time to react, Garron swooped down on her, picked her up, and placed her on his back. Shocked, she instinctively grabbed hold of his remaining horn, her eyes wide with surprise. She stuttered and she muttered but noting intelligible could be heard from her. Amethyst and I exchanged a quick look and decided to just go with it.
It took about a minute for Kaya to recover, but by that time she was enjoying her new vantage point, looking around, in her excitement pointing out shops we did not care about. I heard her mutter, “Who needs golems when you have charr?” but decided to let it slip.
“Oh, oh, oh!” she exclaimed after a few minutes. “I think that’s a blacksmith! A sign with an anvil usually means a blacksmith, doesn’t it?”
“It does, yes,” Amethyst replied.
With Kaya steering us, and the other people evading us, we arrived at the shop rather quickly. Kaya carefully slid off from Garron’s back and waddled into the shop ahead of us. There, much to my relief, we found a large, burly norn hammering away at an anvil. He appeared not to have noticed us.
“Excuse me?” Amethyst said in a rather sweet voice, but the norn appeared to not have heard, even though it should have been loud enough.
“Hello?” Kaya added, even louder.
Still, the norn did not respond.
“Hey,” I said, softer than the other two. “Your forge is too hot, the flames are too high. This way your steel will be too soft.”
The norn looked up at the forge, then shot me a foul glare.
“No, it’s not!” he said.
“No, that’s true, but we have your attention now.”
Still bending over an anvil, the norn was visibly thinking about that, before he gave a roaring laugh.
“Well played, charr. Indeed, you have my attention. What can I do for you?”
“Well,” Kaya said, grabbing the dagger, “we would like you to take a look at this dagger and tell us any information about it.”
“All this effort to draw my attention and you’re not even going to buy something? Instead, you want me to look at a dagger?” the norn said a bit frustrated.
“Tell you what,” Amethyst said, “if you manage to give us useful information, I’ll buy a weapon without haggling.”
“Without haggling, you say?” the norn said with arched eyebrows. “Why do you want me to look at that dagger that badly?”
“Yes, yes, you see, we are trying to solve a murder, and that weapon was the weapon used,” Garron said.
The blacksmith nodded and held out his hand, in which Kaya cautiously placed the dagger. He spun the dagger around in his hands, looked at it from various angled, tapped it with a few metal instruments and generally looked like his brain was working harder than it had in years.
“Yes?” I said.
“This is a poorly made blade!”
“It is?” Kaya said.
“The only reason it’s a viable weapon, is because of the materials used. If I had to take a guess, it was sold to someone with little knowledge of weapons, but a big purse of gold. Not as big as a noble, but certainly larger than that of a deckhand.”
“Any idea where it is from?” I said as the norn handed the blade back to Kaya.”
“I can only tell you that it is human made. Judging by the style, it is probably sold in the human lands.”
“You can tell that?” I asked with interest.
“Yes, both the handle and the cross guard really only accommodate a human hand. Even if I were to make a norn weapon here, I would modify it slightly so other races can wield it as well.”
“Ah, so you have a bigger market to sell it to.”
“A deal is a deal,” Amethyst said, looking around the shop. “I’d like that weapon,” she said pointing a claw at a slender sword.
I could easily see that the sword was well-made and modestly decorated. The blacksmith certainly seemed happy that she chose that blade. After paying him, we bade him farewell and stepped out of the shop.
“Kumara?” Kaya asked.
“You do well with a forge, why did you not take a look at the dagger?”
Amethyst arched her eyebrows, but said nothing.
“I have no experience when it comes to identifying the market where the blade came from. I could tell that the materials were expensive and that the forge work itself was shoddy, but I had no idea why that would be. I could only see the facts, without being able to make the conclusions.”
“Ah, so you wanted someone with knowledge of the market.”
Before either of us could say more, we were cut off by a loud yelp, emanating from a nearby alley. The four of us rushed over immediately, but somehow Kaya managed to get ahead of us together with Thornfang. When we caught up to her, she was at the entrance of the alley, signing us to stop. Inside we could hear angry shouting.
“What d’you think ya doing!”
“Oh, we’re just here to kill you. No hard feelings.”
Without a spoken command, the four of us rushed into the alley, to find captain Tot and two knocked-out deckhands and the knocked-out bosun surrounded by six cloaked figures, all wielding wicked daggers.
Not carrying around a too-obvious bow, I drew my sword and heard Amethyst do the same while Kaya drew her daggers. Garron lagged behind, the only one of us without a weapon.
The first assassin fell without realizing what had happened as my blade sliced across the back of his neck and Thornfang ripped his heel. Kaya dashed past me to launch herself at another assassin, who quickly fell in a flurry of knives.
As the other assassins came to realize what was happening, one of them threw a dagger straight at me. With the alley being rather narrow and the distance between us too short, there was no way I could dodge.
Amazingly, the dagger hit a translucent blue wall that had appeared out of thin air in front of me. Glancing backwards I saw Amethyst holding out her left paw which glowed with the same blue light as she was muttering beneath her breath. I gave her a nod before returning to the battle.
As Kaya was locked in combat with another assailant, one of the assassins took an obvious swipe at the captain. Seeing this just in time, I lurched forward and pulled him backwards hard. We both lost our footing, but the dagger only managed to graze the captain’s skin, leaving a shallow red line. Amethyst however rushed forward, slamming into the assassin with her sword. Thornfang following her into battle.
Lying on the ground, I tried to get up, but it was too late. I saw the only remaining assassin not in combat mutter words while looking intently at me. As time seemed to slow down, I saw lighting arcing across his body towards his outstretched hand. Before the deadly peal of lightning could be released however, a fireball slammed fully in his face, burning away his head. Turning around, I saw that Garron had found a long wooden pole, which was now wreathed in flames, just as he was.
Garron? A flame shaman?
As Amethyst dropped the corpse of her prey, the assassin that had managed to hold Kaya off noticed he was the sole survivor. He jumped backwards and threw a small grenade, which exploded into a cloud of smoke.
“On, no you won’t!” I heard Garron growl. “Flame and steel, burning might, fervent this prey from foolish flight!”
As the assassin jumped up the walls and nearly reached the roof, from the ground three chains that glowed orange with heat shot up and wrapped themselves around their quarry, dragging it back screaming to the ground. There they coiled around his body like snakes.
And with that, the battle was over.
List Of Recurring Entities:
The following is a list of characters—apart from Kumara and Thornfang—who have made an appearance before this part, sorted by order of appearance. With all the different stories on CoT, I understand it is hard to keep track of all the characters.
Tot: The asuran captain of the cargo ship Serendipity.
Garron: A pitch black charr deckhand working with Kumara to solve a murder.
Amethyst: A charr clothes merchant from Lion’s Arch that loves to travel from time to time.
Kaya: An asura that Kumara got to know in a krewe they both worked in. Now, she sets out with Kumara to see the world.